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North Dakota woman dies after rare rodent-related illness

BISMARCK — A northeast North Dakota woman has died after falling ill to a rare disease that's spread by infected rodent droppings, urine and saliva, the state Department of Health said Monday, Aug. 27.

The unidentified adult woman fell ill to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. People can be exposed to HPS by breathing air that's contaminated with the virus when fresh rodent droppings, urine or nesting materials are disturbed, but it's not transmitted from person to person.

The woman had possible contact with rodent urine or droppings or rodents in the environment, according to a news release. She was not named in a news release nor was her city of residence.

"People need to be mindful of the presence or evidence of wild rodents or rodent nests when conducting clean-up activities in a house, barn or other buildings, especially in rural areas," Jill Baber, epidemiologist for the department, said in a statement. "It is important to avoid actions that stir up dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming, if signs of rodents are present."

The state Department of Health has only received 16 reported cases of HPS since 1993, and eight of them were fatal. The last reported case was in 2016.

Early symptoms include fever, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting. The illness progresses in a few days to include coughing and severe shortness of breath.

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